Private house. Designed 1968-70, built 1970-2 by Denys Lasdun and Partners, partner-in-charge Alexander Redhouse, with Peter McKinley. Landscaping by Michael Brown. Extended 1984-5 by Sir Denys Lasdun, Redhouse and Softley, and, in 2000-1, by Sir Denys Lasdun in association with Hurley Robinson and Associates.
Reason for Listing
Hill House, a private house of 1970-2 by Denys Lasdun and Partners, with later additions by Lasdun in association with others, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Significance of architect and commission: an important and little-known domestic commission by this major British architect and the only post-war private house by the firm;
* Design interest: an exceptionally rare example in England of a large-scale country house designed in an uncompromisingly modern style, and one that reflects a close liaison between architect and client;
* Architectural interest: a monumental work of great maturity which is finely finished and detailed: this is a post-war house which is of more than special architectural interest in a national context.
Hill House was built to the designs of Denys Lasdun and Partners in 1970-2, with Alexander Redhouse the partner-in-charge for the original work. The site was that of an old farmstead, already partially demolished when first surveyed in 1967. Lasdun initially proposed a ziggurat design on a square plan, set into the side of the hill, but the clients preferred to maximise the view and favoured the temple-like qualities that could be achieved by monumentalising the members in Lasdun's distinctive style of post and lintel construction. The resulting plan gives strong separation to the public and private areas, and drawings from February 1970 show the house much as first built. From a brief designed around Christmas parties, a plan was evolved from the porte cochère and with a central staircase reminiscent of that at the Royal College of Physicians (the later additions of 1994-6 also by Lasdun; London Borough of Camden; Grade I). The smaller rooms, particularly of the children’s wing, more closely resemble Lasdun's university work but there are also similarities with his National Theatre (1969-76; LB Lambeth; Grade II*), particularly in the use of materials, with both using a concrete mix intended not to go black. Landscaping, including a ha-ha, was by Michael Brown.
Lasdun continued to be employed to make alterations and additions to Hill House, and it was extended in 1984-5 (with Redhouse and Softley) and again in 2000-1 (in association with Hurley Robinson and Associates), the last addition being the architect's final work before his death in January 2001, just as the house was nearing completion.
Sir Denys Lasdun is one of the most distinctive and creative of post-war architects. He is one of the few to have begun practicing before WWII, when he worked for Wells Coates, and after a distinguished military service he joined Lubetkin and Tecton, and Fry and Drew, before establishing his own practice in 1960 when his own style emerged. This was a synthesis of 1930's modernism with a strong horizontality derived from Frank Lloyd Wright (whose planning he came to admire in the 1950s) and an interest in expressing services that makes for comparison with another American architect, Louis Kahn. Perhaps of all British architects, Lasdun's work best demonstrates the cool, four-square and intellectually rigorous qualities of Kahn's work. A number of Lasdun's surviving buildings in England are now designated, many at high grades, such as the Royal College of Physicians at Grade I, and the nearby London University Institute of Education, the UEA Ziggurats (Norwich, Norfolk), Keeling House (Bethnal Green, London) and the National Theatre at Grade II*. Lasdun was knighted in 1976.
This is an important and little-known domestic commission by this major British architect. It is significant, too, as an exceptionally rare example in England of a large-scale country house designed in an uncompromisingly modern style, and one that reflects a close liaison between architect and client.
MATERIALS: in situ reinforced concrete frame and principal features infilled with concrete block construction. Flat roof above slight mansard and with gutters and downpipes set within the frame. All windows are of dark brown anodised aluminium, with steel mullions, to the practice’s design, replacing original sliding windows (also in anodised aluminium) in 1984.
PLAN: cruciform plan of two main storeys with the principal rooms forming an axis north-south through the house, with other main rooms to the west, children’s range to east and service range to north. South facing double-height living area. The main entrance is to the north through a porte cochère. The north service wing is set across a link block over the port cochère with garaging beneath. To the north of the house is the pool house addition of 1984-5 and a further extension, containing a circular library of 2000-1, is linked to the house by a corridor to the west.
EXTERIOR: the entrance is under a porte cochère beneath the rear (north) service wing through a single leaf pine door flanked by narrow lights. East and west elevations are similar, with projecting sections forming wide bays between ends of reinforced concrete roof beams, paired in centre, joined by a lower beam behind which runs a shallow sloping roof with lead covering. Upper windows sliding in two groups of three in each bay, projecting transom with fixed lights below. Deep concrete beam between upper and lower storeys. Ground floor with full height glazing having sliding sashes. South elevation centre block projecting with paired beam ends overhanging concrete block wall, forming deep concrete soffit. Double-height glazing in end wall with single pane in upper section, two below with one sliding. Double doors on right-hand side framed by concrete piers beneath deep projecting cantilevered balcony just separated from the frame and with chrome handrail. South faces to the two wings have concrete block walls to the first floor with slit windows.
West elevation: right-hand end bay has glazing recessed to form covered paved area with raised concrete sill/step, overhanging corner supported on concrete column. Left-hand end bay has projecting wall of 2000-1, concealing sunken extension, with circular window and curved concrete rooflight. To the north of the wall and the main house is the semi-sunken swimming pool of 1984-5. Rear (north) service wing has continuous concrete fascia beneath which are six bays of paired windows with projecting transom and fixed lights below. Four garages beneath. North elevation has cylindrical concrete boiler flue on axis. East elevation: pairs of projecting beams over continuous cornice and band of windows on first floor, ground floor also fully glazed but set back and with separate children's door.
INTERIOR: circulation spaces have unplastered concrete block walling. Concrete paving to floors. The plan is developed on axis from the porte cochère, to provide a large hall and lounge for parties with intimate family rooms to east and west, those to east forming a children’s wing. Entrance gives on to double-height stair hall with single flight rising on right with solid board-marked concrete balustrade and tubular chrome handrail fixed to inner face. Balustrade continued as front to first-floor gallery on three sides. Two display recesses in wall near base of stair, and others on opposite wall. A plain plaster ceiling has a continuous skylight running north to south. Secondary staircase rises behind left hand wall of hallway, with squint. Lower end wall of hall has glazed opening to the drawing room (which is double-height in part), reached by door on left, beyond which steps rise to main level of room. Internal stair rises from room to external balcony and continuation of upper landing which forms study area and gallery. Island hearth with white flue penetrates gallery and partially separates single-height area of room extending to covered terrace on west side. In bathroom, tilework taken from a shop of 1882. Dining room has fabric covered walls. Travertine finishes to master suite. Swimming pool with barrel vaulted roof. The 2000-1 extension was Sir Denys's last work and features a circular library reminiscent in style of his extension of 1994-6 to the Royal College of Physicians (LB Camden), Grade I.
ANCILLARY FEATURES: broad raised terrace of concrete paviours externally provides a platform for the house and enforces the perception of a temple-like form. Ha-ha.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.